Barnet election fiasco report from City Hall, June 2016

As I expect you are aware, Barnet’s organisation of the London elections was seriously deficient, I have a new page on my website about what has been going on, and the aftermath.

Every polling station had only the supplementary, not the full register. Luckily, the margins of the majorities for the elections were such that the result was not affected, but nevertheless hundreds of people lost their right to vote.

Whilst Barnet’s Chief Executive has left by ‘mutual agreement’, no-one has accepted political responsibility for what happened.

I have compiled a dossier of all the complaints refreed to me, which I have submitted to the different investigations and the Electoral Commission. Barnet’s acting Chief Executive has agreed that he will now write to everyone who complained to me about their individual cases, as the complaints covered a wide range of problems, not just the ‘wrong register’ issue. Rather more people wrote to me, than to the Council about their problems!

We held a debate at City Hall’s AGM, in which I spoke.

City Hall has also set up an inquiry to which I have submitted evidence, including an anonymised copy of my dossier.

Barnet Council set up its own investigation, under Mark Heath, the Returning Officer of Southampton Council, but it was woefully deficient, in that its terms of reference were confined only to the electoral register issue and did not cover the recurring systemic problems which happen all the time in Barnet elections, for example the poor state of the register, postal votes, proxy votes and polling station location and management.

I am also concerned that there were serious conflicts of interest in their investigation.

The Council has since accepted that the wider points I have been making are valid, and will investigate them ‘over the summer’, with a report by the ‘end of the year’: far too late for the referendum!

In the meantime, Mr Heath’s report, so far as it goes, can be read here under item 6. It was debated at the Council’s General Functions Committee (which in my view, as the oversight committee for elections has itself a conflict of interest), to which I submitted a list of 30 questions myself and to which I spoke and raised many oral  supplementaries, but got few answers.

In view of the voter registration deadline for the referendum being extended, this time due to central Government problems, I also wrote to the Council, to establish if they were able  to cope, an issue I also raised at this meeting: they assured me they would cope, but as the referendum team is essentially the same staff as the London elections team, the ‘jury is out’, as far as I am concerned.

Whilst Barnet’s Chief Executive left under a cloud ‘by mutual agreement’ with a so far undisclosed payoff, I believe that leading councillors should not be allowed to escape their own political accountability for what happened, though so far they show no sign of accepting their responsibility, even though one of the answers to my questions showed that the General Functions Committee has an elections ‘oversight’ role.